Winter TBR

Winter TBR

Despite the blustery weather and the bone-deep chill of winter, there is something beautiful and whimsical about this season, and not only because of the Christmas holidays. The scene unfolding outside the window is almost ethereal: a milky moon hanging in the skies like an ornament dangling from a Christmas tree, the bare branches swaying in the wind and snowflakes dancing in the cold air, blanketing the sidewalks.

Winter makes me acutely aware of the simple things in life that make me happy. I love those moments spent inside toasty warm coffeeshops, sipping a warm cup of tea and reading to my heart’s content. I love the steam rising from cups of coffee, the feel of the scarf wrapped around my neck and the seasonal music playing in the background. I love snuggling in my warm bed while listening to the rain pattering against the window. I love the smell of baking bread wafting from the kitchen and hot homemade soup that always burns my tongue. I love oversized sweaters, hot chocolate with melted marshmallows and burning teakwood scented-candles.

The cold weather is basically the perfect excuse to stay at home and read all day. And there are honestly so many books I want to read this Winter that have been waiting on my shelves for so long! Here are a few of them but I am open to any recommendations 🙂


 

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden || At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honouring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales. [Goodreads]

 

  • City of Thieves by David Benioff ||During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible. [Goodreads]

 

  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr || A stunningly beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. [Goodreads]

 

  • The Final Empire [Mistborn Trilogy #1] by Brandon Sanderson || In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more? [Goodreads]

 

  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor ||The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. [Goodreads]

 

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain ||At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. [Goodreads]

 

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson || Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do. [Goodreads]

 

  • Memoirs of Geisha by Arthur Golden || In this book we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction – at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful – and completely unforgettable. [Goodreads]

 

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen || Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love. [Goodreads]

 

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Review || An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Review || An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
A prodigy artist. An Autumn Prince. An adventure across seasons.

In a small village called Whimsy, where Summer reigns all year round, there lives a young portrait artist called Isobel. Her Craft gives her life purpose and this is evident in her paintings, so much so that they are highly prized amongst the Fair Folk. Since the Fae themselves cannot create, human Craft is craved amongst them, and they are willing to pay in enchantments just to get a small taste of it. One day Isobel receives her first royal patron, none other than Rook, the Autumn Prince. However she makes a terrible mistake when painting human sorrow into his eyes, thus revealing his weakness. Furious, Rook whisks her off to the Autumnland to stand trial and pay for her actions. However, this trip instantly turns into a dangerous journey, with monsters, the Wild Hunt and the Alder King endangering both of their lives and their alliance is the only thing that could lead to their survival.

“Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?” 

An Enchantment of Ravens has been one of my most anticipated releases of this year, with promise of magic, Fair Folk, adventure and a land where Autumn reigns all year. And it did deliver all of these…and yet it did not live up to the hype surrounding it. Maybe I had really high expectations or I was still reeling after finishing The Secret History, but I was quite disappointed when I finished it.

First of all, this book is quite short for a fantasy story, considering you have to get acquainted with a new world while also describing the characters and plot along the way. Moreover, I think the author did not utilise this short length of the book in an effective way, thus ended up with long stretches of protracted scenes, leaving only a few pages for the good ones. There was also a lot of focus on the journey of the characters, with long descriptive scenes of the forest and the surroundings, and while I did enjoy reading them, I would have liked to learn more about the actual plot and the world as well. I usually adore slow paced books but I think this story dragged a lot and didn’t motivate me to read that much…hence why it took me so long to finish it.

One of the things that I truly enjoyed was the writing. Margaret Rogerson has such a wonderful talent in weaving intricate sentences that conjure up scenes of flaming Fall leaves littering the forest floor, or of hot summer days of endless blue skies and golden wheat fields. She is able to breath life to each season with every word, making the forest alive in a riot of colours, beauty and power. Having said that, while descriptions of the setting were abundant, I was hoping for more world building especially into the laws governing the Fair folk, the World Beyond and what sets this apart from the other lands. I am still filled with so many questions about the Fair Folk, where they came from, why the Alder King came to be so powerful or why human craft has such a devastating effect on them.

Also, in terms of writing, I extremely appreciated the author’s astute descriptions of Isobel’s talent, from the in-depth way that she explained how she made the paint from scratch to the blending of colours. She truly motivated me to pick up my pencils and paper and start drawing again!

 

“It’s difficult to explain what happens when I pick up a charcoal stick or a paintbrush. I can tell you the world changes. I see things one way when I’m not working, and an entirely different way when I am. Faces become not-faces, structures composed of light and shadow, shapes and angles and texture. The deep luminous glow of an iris where the light hits it from the window becomes exquisitely compelling. I hunger for the shadow that falls diagonally across my subject’s collar, the fine lighter filaments in his hair ablaze like thread-of-gold. My mind and hand become possessed. I paint not because I want to, not because I’m good at it, but because it is what I must do, what I live and breathe, what I was made for.”

 

I also extremely enjoyed the author’s rendition of the Fair Folk, giving them such unique attributes that made them appear both formidable and alluring. To mention a few, the Fair Folk are incapable of lying, appear quite flawless in appearance due to the use of glamour to hide their inhuman looks underneath, attempting human craft is fatal to them and they also cannot feel human emotions. The author contrived this mysterious aura around them, reminiscent of their own glamour, that one cannot truly decide if they are good or evil- if such an argument is valid considering they are not even human.

 

“A road stretched before us and behind us. The fair folk cavorted along it in a line, pale forms flickering like sepulchral flames, a procession of ghosts. The forest rose on either side of the path, but it wasn’t the same forest that existed in the world we had been in before. The trees were as big around as houses. Roots rose from the ground at such a height I wouldn’t have been able to climb them if I’d tried. The fair folks’ white luminosity cast flittering shadows across the bark.

 

Isobel is quite an engaging character and wonderful to read from her perspective. She is hard-working and intuitive, never failing to do her utmost in protecting her family with enchantments received as payments for her paintings. She also craves adventure and something different from her predictable routine and endless days of summer. But along the way she slowly turns into the usual cliched heroine, loosing all reason in her infuriating infatuation for a prince she only just met. Because the dreaded insta-love unfortunately makes an appearance and it instantly became the main focus of the story. I found it so disappointing when such an interesting concept-of Isobel painting mortal sorrow in Rook’s eyes- ended up being just a thinly-veiled plot device for these two characters to fall head over heels for each other when there was no actual chemistry between them. The love confessions were laughable at best, especially seeing how they were never given a chance to slowly grow in character and as a couple. Basically the romance took over the whole plot which is quite sad considering all the potential routes this book could have taken.

 

Rook is an interesting character with many layers to uncover. Despite his lack of human emotions, there are still human attributes to his personality, mainly his arrogance and pride, along with his deep love for Autumn. He is also good-natured and sometimes surprisingly well attuned to the feelings of others, apologising profusely when he thinks he’s offended someone. I appreciated his respect towards Isobel’s wishes and never attempted to push her boundaries without asking her first. Rook also has the power to shape shift and I actually found Isobel’s interactions with him as an animal quite endearing to read. Despite all this, he has an aura of mystery surrounding him and there are so many things that we never get to know about him. I guess this is quite fitting seeing how closed-off he is as a character, but this in-turn deprives the reader from fully connecting with him. I wanted to learn more about his past, get to know him better just so I could actually care about him.

Secondary characters are as important as the main characters, but for the same reason mentioned above, this book was too short and there was no time for the author to focus more on Isobel’s family or the other Fair Folk mentioned later on in the story. Aster was the only character that I had some sort of connection with, but like the rest of the characters, she was put in the sidelines and only mentioned briefly. In my opinion, books that focus on their ensemble cast of secondary characters put fresh light on the main theme of the story, and without their perspective, the story would lack credibility and creativity.

Sadly I didn’t like the ending of this book, mainly because it felt quite rushed and convenient. The way the author dealt with the evil Alder-king and his oppressive laws lacked any inspiring or intricate plot and there were so many loose ends that I kept asking myself if this book was actually part of a series (which is not).

Overall I found this book underwhelming and disappointing, which is quite sad considering how much potential it had. While I enjoyed the writing, it failed to deliver a proper fantasy story with intricate world building, character growth and a realistic relationship. However I would still recommend it to those people who love slow-paced journey books… and insta-love!


Rating: ☆☆ [2.5 stars]

  • Genre: Young Adult- Fantasy, Romance
  • Edition: Margaret K. McElderry Book, September 2017, Hardback
  • Pages:300
  • Source: Book Depository

 

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Le Cirque des Rêves

Le Cirque des Rêves

My love for The Night Circus knows no bounds. Every time Autumn approaches, I look forward to the day when I could revisit the circus again, wander it’s paths, weave in and out of it’s black and white tents and imagine the taste of caramel apples on my lips. Erin Morgenstern is a wordsmith goddess who brings my dreams to life in each and every word she writes. Thus, in appreciation for her beautiful writing and my love for this book, I decided to post a few of my favourite quotes while also hoping that these words will compel you to pick up a copy and start reading it pronto!


“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

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“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”

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“Celia.” he says without looking up at her, “why do we wind our watch?”
“Because everything requires energy,” she recites obediently, eyes still focused on her hand. “We must put effort and energy into anything we wish to change.”

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“I made a wish on this tree years ago,” Marco says.

 “What did you wish for?” Bailey asks. 

Marco leans forward and whispers in Bailey’s ear. “I wished for her.”

“The silence that falls between them is a comfortable one. He longs to reach over and touch her, but he resists, fearful of destroying the delicate camaraderie they are building. He steals glances instead, watching the way the light falls over her skin. Several times he catches her regarding him in a similar manner, and the moments when she holds his eyes with hers are sublime.”

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“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

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“There is so much that glows in the circus, from flames to lanterns to stars. I have heard the expression “trick of the light” applied to sights within Le Cirque des Reves so frequently that I sometimes suspect the entirety of the circus is itself a complex illusion of illumination” .”

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 “Is magic not enough to live for?” Widget asks.
“Magic,” the man in the grey suit repeats, turning the word into a laugh. “This is not magic. This is the way the world is, only very few people take the time to stop and note it. Look around you,” he says, waving a hand at the surrounding tables. “Not one of them even has an inkling of the things that are possible in this world, and what’s worse is that none of them would listen if you attempted to enlighten them. They want to believe that magic is nothing but clever deception, because to think it real would keep them up at night, afraid of their own existence.”
“But some people can be enlightened,” Widget says.”

“People are naive about such things, and they would rather write them off as evil than attempt to understand them. An unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless.”

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“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.

You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

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“Better to have a single perfect diamond than a sack of flawed stones.”

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“This is, in part, why there is less magic in the world today. Magic is secret and secrets are magic, after all, and years upon years of teaching and sharing magic and worse. Writing it down in fancy books that get all dusty with age has lessened it, removed its power bit by bit.”

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“Tucked in the back of one of the shelves is a small bottle, rounded with a short neck and closed with a matching glass stopper. He picks it up carefully. It is heavier than he had expected. Removing the stopper, he is confused, for at first the scent and the sensation do not change. Then comes the aroma of caramel, wafting on the crisp breeze of an autumn wind. The scent of wool and sweat makes him feel as though he is wearing a heavy coat, with the warmth of a scarf around his neck. There is the impression of people wearing masks. The smell of a bonfire mixes with the caramel. And then there is a shift, a movement in front of him. Something grey. A sharp pain in his chest. The sensation of falling. A sound like howling wind, or a screaming girl.”

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The Night Circus Review
Le Cirque des Rêves Playlist
Goodreads
Source: Book Depository

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Autumn TBR

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The leaves cascade unto the forest floor in shades of molten-red and brown, dancing to a song of howls and woos, like a prayer to the forest nymphs. But the burning leaves now turn a smoulder-gold as the first drops of rain fall. The soft raindrops of summer are long gone, replaced instead by heavy drops of destruction. But as the storm passes, the soft light of the autumn moon peeks between the clouds and envelopes the trees, relishing the eerie glamour of the sleeping forest. It is a sight to behold. At it’s most glorious, Autumn is spectacular. 

I don’t know what it is about this season, but when I glimpse the first ember-red leaves on the sidewalk, by heart starts leaping with joy. The thought of spending my days swaddled in blankets, warming my hands on a cup of tea and reading a book gives me immense joy. Couple that with the sound of falling rain and the smell of baking bread and pumpkin spice wafting from the kitchen, and I would literally be in heaven. 

For some reason, I tend to read more fantasy books at this time of year, maybe because the blazing world of colour outside feeds my imagination and allows me to believe in worlds beyond our own. So here are the books that I’m planning to read this Fall, including a couple that I have already read and enjoyed. If you have any Autumn book recommendations, feel free to comment! x 


  • The Diviners by Libba Bray: Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

 

  • Autumn by Ali Smith: Fusing Keatsian mists and mellow fruitfulness with the vitality, the immediacy and the colour-hit of Pop Art (via a bit of very contemporary skulduggery and skull-diggery), Autumn is a witty excavation of the present by the past. The novel is a stripped-branches take on popular culture and a meditation, in a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, what harvest means.

 

  • Vixen by Rosie GarlandDevon, 1349. In Brauntone, where seagulls screech across the fields and the wind has a mind to change, Father Thomas arrives as the new priest. Determined to impress his congregation, he quells fears of the coming pestilence with promises of protection. For Anne, the priest’s arrival is an opportunity that at sixteen, she feels all too ready for. Convinced a grand fate awaits, she moves in as Thomas’s housekeeper, though hopeful of something more. But his home is a place without love or kindness. So when a strange, mute Maid is discovered, washed up in the marshes, and taken in, Anne is grateful for the company. Their friendship is to give Anne the chance of a happiness she thought she’d never know. But soon the plague strikes Brauntone, spreading panic. And as the villagers’ fear turns to anger, Thomas must sacrifice anything to restore their faith in him.

 

  • The Secret History by Donna TarttUnder the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

 

  • An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson: Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life. Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

 

  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente: Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. As the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, it becomes his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.

 

  • The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo: Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.  these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

 

  • Before the Feast by Saša Stanisšić: It’s the night before the feast in the village of Fürstenfelde (population: an odd number). The village is asleep. Except for the ferryman – he’s dead. And Mrs Kranz, the night-blind painter, who wants to depict her village for the first time at night. A bell-ringer and his apprentice want to ring the bells – the only problem is that the bells have gone. A vixen is looking for eggs for her young, and Mr Schramm is discovering more reasons to quit life than smoking.Someone has opened the doors to the Village Archive, but what drives the sleepless out of their houses is not that which was stolen, but that which has escaped. Old stories, myths and fairy tales are wandering about the streets with the people. They come together in a novel about a long night, a mosaic of village life, in which the long-established and newcomers, the dead and the living, craftsmen, pensioners and noble robbers in football shirts bump into each other. They all want to bring something to a close, in this night before the feast.

 

  • Magic with Skin on by Morgan Nikola-Wren: In her much-anticipated debut poetry collection, Morgan Nikola-Wren has woven her signature romantic grit through a stunning, modern-day fairy tale. Chronicling the relationship between a lonely artist and her absent–albeit abusive–muse, Magic with Skin On will gently break you, then put you back together again.

 

  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Mariellier: High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm. But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop. When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.
  • The Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman (reread): After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

 

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (reread): The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

 

  • Vicious by VE Schwab (reread): Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognised the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch nemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

 

Book Menus

Book Menus

Feeling hungry? Then you are about to get ravenous!

While rereading the Harry Potter series this month, I became acutely aware of the vast number of scenes in the books that either feature food, talk about food or showcase characters whose hunger pangs rival my own (I’m talking about you Ron!). Now I should probably point out (if you haven’t noticed already) that I love a sumptuous dinner as much as I love an overflowing bookshelf and whenever I come across a food scene while I’m reading, my stomach starts to growl like my next door neighbour’s dog! So I decided to write a blog post that features some of my favourite books and the types of food that are mentioned in them. I think it’s incredible to read about the different kinds of cuisines across literature, and how much these scenes add such a unique taste to the story!


Purple Hibiscus   Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus is set in Nigeria and it features different kinds of Nigerian cuisines throughout the story. Interestingly enough, Nigerian cuisine involves a great variety of colourful and aromatic dishes, using various herbs, spices, beans, meat and rice. Adichie’s writing conjured such vivid images of these luscious dishes that I was constantly hungry while I was reading it! To mention a few:

  • Fufu: A Nigerian staple food that is mentioned quite a lot in the novel. It is a dough-like dish made of boiled or ground plantain, cassava or yam that is rolled into a ball to go with soups. In fact Kambili eats it by rolling it and dipping it in the Onugbu soup.
  • Ofe Onugbu: Also known as the Bitterleaf soup, it is the most traditional Igbo soup. Apparently the name is quite misleading since the soup is not bitter at all. The leaves are washed and squeezed until all traces of bitterness is gone.
  • Egusi Soup: It is a popular Nigerian dish made from ground egusi (melon) seeds.
  • Nigerian Fried Rice: This is probably one of my favourite dishes mentioned in the book and it usually consists of rice, vegetable oil, chicken, curry with several vegetables and seasoning.
  • Utazi: It is an African herb that has a characteristically sharp taste and is used in soups and herb teas to add a bitter taste.

The Grisha trilogy Leigh Bardugo

In an interview with Wendy Darling (click this link for more info), Leigh Bardugo concurs that food forms an integral part in a story in the way it makes the fictional world more familiar and real. But authors also have the ability to twist the familiar into something extraordinary, so while you still feel at home within the fictional place, you also realise that you have been transported into a fantastical place.

If I could live on a carbs-only diet, I would! So when I read about Ravka’s Butterweek Sweet Bird-shaped Rolls, I couldn’t help imagining myself eating a whole basket! The bird-shaped rolls mentioned in Shadow and Bone are inspired by those that are still made today in Russia to celebrate the coming of Spring and the prosperity that it brings with it. These sweet buns, also called zhavoronki, are baked in the shape of larks, as a symbol of harbinger of Spring. They honestly look and sound delicious!

“‘I still have the roll,’ I offered lamely, pulling the squashed, lint-covered lump from my pocket. It had been baked into the shape of a bird to celebrate the spring flocks, but now it looked more like a rolled-up sock.

Mal dropped his head, covering it with his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. His shoulders began to shake, and for a horrible moment, I thought he might be crying, but then I realised he was laughing silently. His whole body rocked, his breath coming in hitches, tears starting to leak from his eyes. ‘That better be one hell of a roll,’ he gasped.”

 Dinner at the Grand Palace in Os Alta doesn’t sound bad either!

 “The food was less alien than I’d expected, the kind of food we’d eaten on feast days at Keramzin: sweet pea porridge, quail roasted in honey, and fresh figs. I found I was hungrier than I’d ever been and had to resist picking up my plate to lick it.”


The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern 

The Night Circus is one of my all-time favourite books. Le Cirque des Rêves for me embodies everything that I love: from the food, to the attractions, and the palpable magic in the air. I was constantly imagining myself wandering its paths and weaving around the tents the whole time I was reading it, smelling the cider in the air and licking chocolate off my fingers. Just picture yourself eating some of these:

Caramel apples, black and white striped paper bag of chocolate or caramel covered popcorn, chocolate mice with almond ears and liquorice tails, cinnamon rolls covered in icing, spiced cocoa and cider.

“Apples dipped in caramel so dark they appeared almost blackened but remained light and crisp and sweet.”

One also cannot fail from mentioning Chandresh Christophe Lefèvres’ famous Midnight Dinners. They were famous for having no menus just to add to the experience, and while some dishes were recognizable, others were more enigmatic, hidden beneath sweet sauces or inside pastries. Chandresh himself admits that not knowing all the ingredients gives the dish life and ‘makes it more than the sum of its parts’.

Just to mention a few: quail, rabbit or lamb served on banana leaves or baked in apples, garnished with brand-soaked cherries, berries bursting with creams and liquors, figs dripping with honey, sugar blown into curls and flowers and pastries lighter than air.


Harry Potter J.K. Rowling

It wouldn’t be right to forget the very books that inspired this post! I guess we can all agree that J.K Rowling is a wordsmith goddess, able to infuse the mundane with a touch of her own kind of magic. So naturally, the food mentioned in the books are exquisite and bound to make you hungry just by reading about them. There’s also something comforting to read about all those overflowing and scrumptious dishes, maybe because they remind me of family gatherings, Christmas dinners or my mum’s cooking, with the mouth-watering smell permeating every room in the house.

So let’s start off with the infamous food trolley on the Hogwarts Express:

  • Chocolate Frogs
  • Liquorice Wands
  • Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans
  • Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum
  • Pumpkin pasties
  • Cauldron Cakes

The Hogwarts Feast is always bursting with the most delicious food imaginable:

“He had never seen so many thing he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.”

“Blocks of ice cream in every flavour you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate eclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O, rice pudding—“

Nothing can rival the Start-of-Term Feast, except maybe…the Christmas Feast! It mainly consisted of hundreds of fat, roast turkeys, mounds of roasted and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce. And for dessert, flaming Christmas puddings with silver sickles hidden within.

I also cannot fail from mentioning Hagrid’s jaw-breaking rock cakes; shapeless lumps with raisins that often broke their teeth! Or his infamous birthday cake he made especially for Harry on his eleventh birthday.

It’s a personal dream of mine to one-day taste Mrs. Weasley’s cooking! If only I could receive her homemade fudge and toffee for Christmas! And I think we can all agree that there is no one able to whip up a delicious feast like Molly Weasley!

By seven o’clock, the two tables were groaning under dishes and dishes of Mrs Weasley’s excellent cooking, and the nine Weasleys, Harry and Hermione were settling themselves down to eat beneath a clear, deep-blue sky. To somebody who had been living on meals of increasingly stale cake all summer, this was paradise, and at first, Harry listened rather than talked, as he helped himself to chicken-and-ham pie, boiled potatoes and salad.

A trip to Hogsmeade will often lead you to Honeydukes, a store bursting with the most delectable sweets ever! 

“There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat, shimmering pink squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-coloured toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; there was a large barrel of Every Flavour Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizzbees, the levitating sherbet balls that Ron had mentioned; along yet another wall were ‘Special Effects’ sweets: Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-coloured bubbles that refused to pop for days), the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints, tiny black Pepper Imps (‘breathe fire for your friends!’), Ice Mice (‘hear your teeth chatter and squeak!’), peppermint creams shaped like toads (‘hop realistically in the stomach!’) , fragile sugar-spun quills and exploding bonbons.”

And if you’re feeling chilled to the bone, you can always visit Madam Rosmerta at the Three Broomsticks for a glass of Butterbeer, Firewhiskey, gillywater, mulled mead, red currant rum, or cherry syrup and soda with ice and an umbrella.


That’s it for today but I will definitely write another similar post soon! I’m just going to nip downstairs for a bite to eat now…because I’m starving!

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Review || The Inexplicable Logic of my Life- Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Review || The Inexplicable Logic of my Life- Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Trigger Warning: Attempted sexual assault, Successive deaths

 The Inexplicable Logic of my Life focuses on our main character Sal, a white boy who was adopted into a Mexican family. He has always felt in control of his life and certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and the rest of his Mexican-American family. But things start to change, and change was not something that Sal adapted to very well. Suddenly he was no longer feeling in charge of his feelings and emotions and he starts to wonder who he truly was. His own history unexpectedly returns to haunt him and together with his best-friend Samantha, he now has to confront issues of faith, loss and grief. The book takes us on a journey with Sal’s thoughts and feelings and how the experiences shape him and simultaneously help him to rediscover himself.

Having read and enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe, I had very high expectations for this book. And I did enjoy reading it…I guess. There were various moments during the novel that gave me the opportunity to change my perspective on life and the suffering that it brings with it, however there were so many issues throughout the novel that truly disappointed me. But let me start off by talking about the things that I enjoyed.

“Life had its seasons, and the season of letting go would always come, but there was something very beautiful in that, in letting go. Leaves were always graceful as they floated away from the tree.”

First of all, this book has no romantic elements but instead focuses solely on platonic friendships and family relationships- something that is very hard to find in YA books. The only feelings that Sal and Samantha have for each other are those of a deeply rooted friendship that was quite endearing to read about. It was so refreshing to read about their relationship and the way it developed while still remaining platonic. I did however find Samantha to be a tad too self-righteous at times and always trying to be in control of their friendship. There’s no other way to describe her character other than grating and annoying and while she did grow towards the end of the novel, I still found her very much intolerable.

My favourite character by far is Fito, probably because I saw a part of myself in him, in that I often judge myself way too harshly and reject help simply because I do not think that I deserve it. I also admired his perseverance to work and continue his education despite the lack of support from his family. Sally is also an interesting character and I quite enjoyed being inside his head, being able to read his thoughts and the way he questions many things about himself and life in general. And while certain attempts at being philosophical proved ineffectual at times, I think the author truly succeeded in making the reader think about topics that people usually try to avoid. Sal is also endearing in so many ways, such as when he ‘shares’ his dog with his friends whenever they were sad, his beautiful relationship with his grandmother and his loyalty to his loved ones.

One thing that truly stands out in this book is the father-son relationship between Vicente and Sal. Sal’s father is such a gentle and compassionate soul who involves himself not only in his son’s life but also in the lives of his friends. The advice that he gives to Sal is peppered with sage wisdom, which often times helps our main character to accept and understand himself better. He is generous, authentic and honest, someone who is ready to welcome strangers into his family with open arms. It was also refreshing to have a constant presence of a father figure , unlike many YA novels where the parents somehow magically disappear, allowing the kids enough free time to take over the world!

Before I nodded off, I thought about what my dad had said — that life wasn’t all nice and neat like a book, and life didn’t have a plot filled with characters who said intelligent and beautiful things. But he wasn’t right about that. See, my dad said intelligent and beautiful things. And he was real. He was the most real thing in the entire world. So why couldn’t I be like him?

I fully applaud this book for it’s diverse cast of characters. We have a gay Mexican-American single father who is honestly the best role model one could ever have. Sáenz also tackles various issues of race, queerness and poverty that all contributed to the journey of self-discovery. The author also addressed many important themes that make you contemplate life itself. Death is constantly present throughout the novel and it takes us on an emotional journey with a family who knows that it would eventually loose a significant member soon. It made me aware that sometimes the sense of impending loss can be even more painful than missing what you have lost. That the knowledge of the lack of time you have left together makes every moment spent with each other even more precious. And death can never take away those special moments that you had shared together.

There is also a pervading theme of nature vs nurture throughout the novel, with the main character constantly trying to address this long-running debate as a way to help him find himself. The nature vs nurture argument attempts to define certain aspects of behaviour either as a product of genetics or acquired characteristics and I think the author managed to deal with this subject pretty well. While genetic inheritance does play an important role in defining our individual traits, what we learn throughout our lives prove to be very important factors that influence our own behaviours.

On another day, I might have cried. But I was still to mad to cry. Dad always said that there was nothing wrong with crying and that if people did more of it, well then, the world would be a better place.

The writing style did not change at all from his previous book: it has remained simplistic and lyrical. Personally I think it worked really well in Ari and Dante but when it came to this book, I found it quite repetitive and stilted. Every paragraph was swarming with periods that irked me to no end, not allowing the story to flow seamlessly as it should have. The same words and sentences which in the beginning where deeply poetic, became monotone and meaningless due to overuse. Also, this book, like it’s predecessor, lacks a definite plot, and instead focuses on the characters and their relationships. Thus describing it as a reflective story is more fitting. While I adore character-driven books, I felt that the author relied too much on the main character’s unpredictable aggression and it’s cause instead of an actual development. And in the end, I still couldn’t fathom the connection between his anger and the fear and hurt that he was supposedly feeling.

However, the good things about this book do not cancel out the problematic content. There are so many stereotypes and offensive dialogue throughout the novel that I was honestly not expecting and unfortunately overshadowed everything else. Such examples include:

  • ‘She didn’t throw like a girl’ (Then how is she supposed to throw?!)
  • ‘For a gay guy my dad was pretty straight’ (because his father knows how to throw a ball)
  • Sam thinks other girls are ‘bitches’ so she won’t befriend them
  • Sam also thinks that feminists ‘don’t know shit’
  • ‘You’re not a real Mexican’
  • ‘Schizophrenic dork’ was used to describe a certain character
  • Sam using her mother’s death as an excuse to be indulged

Spoilers: But worst of all, I hated the awful way a sexual assault was handled by the author- an unnecessary sub-plot about midway into the book that was brushed off and treated in a very problematic way. Whenever Sally tried to stand up for Sam or gotten really angry with the guy who tried to rape her, he was constantly forced to apologize. As if Sal is the bad guy, not the rapist! I can never wrap my mind around this. I also found this both disturbing and appalling because sexual assault is such a traumatizing experience and the author did not even attempt to show his readers the effects it could have on the victim. This book is written for a younger audience and it’s never ok to teach young people (or any audience for that matter) to feel sorry for the rapist. As if it’s ok to accept their apology and later attempt to go near them again! Hell no. The author should have treated this serious topic with more sensitivity and care and not use it as a throwaway plot device.

While I somewhat enjoyed reading this book, it failed miserably when it came to addressing important issues and the use of certain phrases and stereotypical comments. It’s frustrating to see a book with such potential, failing miserably with it’s problematic content. It honestly doesn’t feel like Aristotle & Dante and this book were written by the same author!


Rating: ☆☆

  •  Genre: Young Adult- Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
  • Edition: Clarion Books, March 2017, Hardback
  • Pages:452
  • Source: Book Depository

Summer Breeze

Summer Breeze

Summer is only a few days away but the sun has already started painting the world vividly by it’s rays. So blinding. So brilliant. I used to count down the days until this season started, mainly because it meant three whole months without thinking about school or homework. Now that I’m working however, it doesn’t feel much different from the other seasons. But then I remember those warm sunny days when I was a kid, many mornings spent at the beach, binging on ice-creams, licking our chocolate-covered fingers and digging our toes in the warm gritty sand. I used to spend hours reading in the shade of the trees, while my father worked in the fields nearby…and later coming home to the smell of my mother’s new recipe. I loved these simple moments and I plan on embracing them again this year.

I have already compiled a new playlist in anticipation for summer (that’s how excited I am!) and it is a combination of songs that I’ve been enjoying lately. I hope you do as well 🙂

Coins in a Fountain– Passenger

Headlights (Acoustic Version)– Katja Petri

Yellow Sun– Crystal Fighters

Illuminate– The Kite String Tangle, Dustin Tebbutt

Tiger Striped Sky– Roo Panes

Beaches– Gone in the Sun

Tenerife Sea– Ed Sheeran

Green Light– Lorde

Don’t Let It Pass– Junip

September Song– JP Cooper

Going to California– Led Zeppelin

Perfect Day– Lou Reed

Riptide– Vance Joy

Sunshine Gold– Sam the Astronaut

[Spotify]

 I would also like to share with you some of the books that I’m really looking forward to read this summer. I tried to include a mix of everything: poetry, classics, contemporaries, fantasy, short stories and even non-ficiton books. I hope I can manage to read them all…the summer heat is known to make me pretty lazy!!

x.